Monday, June 26, 2017

Agents of Chaos II: Jedi Eclipse - The Review

Ok, so it's been over a year since I did one of these. I know that there are likely quite a few of you who don't care much for the EU and/or have no interest in reading it. But I had always wanted to at least get through the New Jedi Order series. And when last we left off, Han and Leia were split up and at the very least I wanted to get to the part where they're back together again. Recently I had some time to do some reading and got through this book, so here we go, the final book of Han and Leia being split up...

This review is probably going to be relatively short. Because we tend to want to focus on Han and Leia moments for these, and, well, there aren't really any. They speak to each other briefly a couple of times, and are together in the same place for exactly zero scenes. I'm sure when I first read this book when it came out I did my usual thing where I skimmed through it looking for when the Han and Leia parts were and was incredibly disappointed to find out there weren't any. Although considering what a jerk Han was in the last book, perhaps we should consider this as an improvement.

So to start, Leia is trying to find places for refugees who have been displaced by the war. (this all seems sort of scarily familiar right now) She is busy trying to round up refugees while they are under attack. Typical Leia, always in the middle of things. But, even amid the chaos, she thinks about Han. She is asked when the last time she had slept was, and Threepio informs her that it has been 57 hours. Leia realizes she hasn't slept soundly since Han left a month earlier. And not a day passed when she didn't wonder what he was doing. See what you're doing to your wife, Han? She had heard reports sometimes of the Falcon being spotted, but Han hadn't contacted her personally.

He hadn't been the same since Chewbacca's death - not that anyone or anything had, especially occurring when it did, at the start of the Yuuzhan Vong invasion, and largely at their hands. It was natural that Han should mourn Chewie's passing more than anyone, but even Leia had been surprised by the direction he had taken-or the one his unabashed grief had driven him to take. Where Han had always been cheerfully roguish, there was an angry gravity to him now. Anakin had been the first target of his father's outrage; then everyone close to Han had gradually fallen victim to it.

 Experts spoke of stages of grief, as if people could be expected to move through them routinely. But in Han the stages were jumbled together; anger, denial, despair-without a hint of resignation, let alone acceptance.

 Han's stasis was what worried Leia more than anything.

  Though he would be the first to deny it-vociferously, at that-his grief had fueled a kind of recidivism, a return to the Han of old: the lone Solo, who guarded his sensitivity by keeping himself at arm's length, who claimed not to care about anyone but himself, who allowed thrill to substitute for feeling.

 When Droma-another adventurer-had first entered Han's orbit, Leia had feared the worst. But in getting to know the Ryn, even slightly, she had taken heart. While not a replacement for Chewie-for how could anyone replace him? - Droma at least presented Han with the option of forging a new relationship, and if Han could manage that, he just might be able to see his way to reembracing his tried-and-true relationships. Time would tell-about Han, about their marriage, about the Yu-uzhan Vong and the fate of the New Republic. 

So, Han has returned to his "old ways" (where have we seen that before?) and is still ignoring his wife and family. I guess maybe this is an improvement on the last book where he was being awful to all of them. I do think it's interesting that Leia thinks Han forging a new friendship with Droma might help him find his way back to his family. But it's still just so sad that Leia is left wondering about the fate of their marriage, especially in the middle of such a crisis in the galaxy.

Eventually we do move on to Han, who is with Droma. Han has grown a beard to make himself less recognizable, and painted the Falcon matte-black for the same reason. Han is still trying to reunite Droma with his family.

 "But you've got my word, no Hutt'll stop us from locating your clanmates. We'll have your family back together soon enough."

 "Then we can make a start on yours," Droma mumbled. 

Han threw him an angry glance. "You want to explain that?"

 Droma turned to him. "You and Leia to begin with. If it weren't for me, you'd be with her now. I only hope she can find it in her heart to forgive me. "

 Han compressed his lips. "You've got nothing to do with what's come between us. Heck, it's not even between me and Leia. It's between me and"-he flicked his hand at the starfield beyond the viewpoint-"this."

 Droma didn't speak for a moment, then said, "Even friends can't be protected from fate, Han."

 "Don't talk to me about fate," Han snapped. "Nothing's fixed-not these stars and definitely not what happens to us in life." He clenched his hands. "These are what determine my fate."

 "And yet even you end up in situations that are not of your making."

 "Like my being with you, for instance."

 Droma frowned. "I've lost friends and loved ones to tragedy, and I've tried to do exactly what you're doing."

 Han looked up at him. "What I'm doing?"

 "Trying to beat tragedy by outracing it. Filling your life to the brim, even when it puts you in danger. Burying your heartache under as much anger as you can muster, without realizing that you've shoveled love and compassion into the same grave. We live for love, Han. Without it we might as well jettison everything."

 Despite himself, Han thought about Leia on Gyndine, Jaina flying with Rogue Squadron, Anakin and Jacen off to who knew where with the Jedi. When he considered, even for a split second, where he might be without them, the angry words and recriminations that had spewed from him since Chewie's death pierced him like rapid fire. If something should happen to them, he started to think, only to feel a great black maw opening beneath him, undermining everything he believed in. Protectively, he tugged himself from dark imaginings.

 "I got along just fine without love for a lot of years, Droma. Love is what starts things rolling downhill. It's like being sucked into a gravity well or being caught by a tractor beam. You get too close, there's no escape." 

So apparently Han isn't doing much better here yet. I don't know, I still feel as though it wouldn't take that long before Han would come to his senses and want to be even closer to his family than he was before. They're all in life-threatening situations here, would he really continue to run away like that and act like it's such a bad thing? I get the idea that he thinks it was easier to live before worrying about loving people, but the fact of the matter is that he already has that family, he already loves them. It's kind of too late to go back on that. At least he admits that what is going on isn't between him and Leia at all. Gee, if it isn't, why don't you stop treating her like that?!?

So Leia is busy dealing with refugees, and planets that had said they'd take refugees but then decided they can't handle more refugees. She still hasn't gotten any rest and then she suddenly gets a call from Han. The first time she's heard from him in a month, as we had learned before. Of course normally she'd be glad to be hearing from him, but then we know that this Han hasn't exactly been fun to deal with lately.

A snowy image appeared on the communication console's display screen. Leia recognized the forward cargo hold of the Millennium Falcon, though it took her a moment to recognize Han behind the beard.

 "How do you like my new look?" he asked, stroking the salt-and-pepper growth.

 "Han, where are you?"

 He swiveled the navicomputer chair. "I'd rather not say just now."

 She nodded in a galled but knowing way. "How did you know where to find me?"

 "I heard about Gyndine. Wasn't too difficult after that. You're still well known, whether you like it or not."

 "So are you, Han. And for all anyone knows, the Yuuzhan Vong could be hunting for you or the Falcon."

 Han's brows beetled and his mouth formed a puckered O.

 "I'm not a complete blockhead, you know. That's why I grew the beard and had the Falcon painted."

 Leia's eyes widened. "Painted?"

 "Anodized, actually. A lovely shade of matte black. She looks like a mortician's delight."

 "What system are you planning to sneak into this time?"


 "You heard me."

 "Oh, I get it. You mean maybe instead of frolicking around out here, I should be devoting my time to saving planets."

 Leia huffed. "I'm not interested in saving planets, Han. I'm interested in saving lives."

 "Well, what'd you think I'm trying to do? This is all about finding Droma's relatives and Roa, Leia. It has nothing to do with Ord Mantell or Gyndine or anywhere else. Besides, a man's good for only one promise at a time, and I gave mine to Droma."

 Leia exhaled slowly. "I'm sorry, Han. I understand what you're doing." She smiled thinly. "At least we still have something in common."

 Han averted his gaze momentarily. "Speaking of which, was it you who arranged for Ord Mantell's refugees to be transferred to Gyndine?"


 Han gave her a lopsided smile. "You're complicating my search, sweetheart."

 Leia's frustration returned. "Am I? And who created such a muddle on Vortex that the local governor decided to renege on his promise to accept any refugees whatsoever?"

 "I was only trying to-" Han's image suddenly tilted to one side, as if the Falcon had been stood on end. "Hey, Droma, watch what you're doing up there!" He turned back to the cam, jerking a thumb in the direction of the Falcon's outrigger cockpit. "Guy claims to be a pilot, but you'd never know it by the way he handles a ship." Leia took her lower lip between her teeth in disquiet.

 "How are you two getting along?"

 He snorted. "If I didn't owe him my life, I'd probably jettison him right here."

 "I'm sure," Leia said quietly.

 "By the way, you might want to pass along to the fleet office that a flotilla of Yuuzhan Vong ships was spotted near Osarian. Couple of destroyer analogs and-"

 "Han," she said, cutting him off. "Droma's sister is on Gyndine."

 He sat bolt upright. "What? How do you know that?"

 "Because some of his clanmates are among the group evacuated from Gyndine. There wasn't time to take everyone, and his sister was one of at least six Ryn I was forced to leave behind. I didn't know until we'd already transferred everyone to the transports."

 "Why didn't you say so in the first place?" Han demanded.

 "Because there's nothing either of us can do about it. Gyndine's occupied."

 "There are ways around that," Han mumbled distractedly. 

Leia compressed her lips. "You are infuriatingly predictable."

 "And you worry too much."

 "Someone has to."

 "Leia, will you be there for a while-on Ralltiir?"

 She shook her head. "We'll be leaving for Ruan, if I have any say in the matter. Then I'm going to Hapes."

 "Hapes?" Han said in incredulity. "And you accuse me of putting myself in the thick of things? Why there of all places?"

 "With any luck, to enlist the Consortium's help. The New Republic fleets are spread too thinly to defend the Colonies, let alone the Core. And now with Bilbringi, Corellia, perhaps even Bothawui endangered, we need all the support we can rally. Which reminds me, Han, Admiral Sow has asked Anakin to go to Corellia to help in reenabling Centerpoint Station."

 He snorted. "It's about time the New Republic started considering Corellia's defense."

 "Then you're all right with his going-without either of us?"

 "How old were you when you agreed to carry the technical readouts of the Death Star? Which of us is watching over Jaina when she flies with Rogue Squadron?" 


 "Besides, Anakin's a Jedi."

 "I suppose you're right," Leia said, clearly unconvinced. Han smiled ambiguously. "Be sure to say hello to Prince Isolder for me."

 "Why don't you come with me to Hapes and tell him in person?"

 He laughed at the idea. "What, and spoil your fun?"

 "What's that supposed to mean?" He started to reply but bit back whatever he had in mind to say, and began again.

 "Is there any hope for the folks you couldn't extract from Gyndine?"

 Leia shut her eyes and shook her head. "I'm not sure any of them even survived."

And that was the end of that conversation. Sigh. Things aren't getting much better here. Han is still being distant, and pretty uncaring. Leia isn't even pressing him at all, it's like she has basically given up on him as well. It's infuriating, honestly. And then, to top it all off, we bring up Isolder. I remember when I read this the first time knowing that couldn't be a good sign. The only good part of this conversation is that I like the idea that Leia is doing that mom thing of being worried about the kids, and Han is doing that dad thing where he's like, weren't you about their age when you did a lot of crazy stuff and you were fine?

I should also take a moment to explain some plot stuff. So the New Republic is trying to figure out good ways to take out some of the Yuuzhan-Vong forces. They decide maybe they can make it look like they aren't really protecting Corellia, sort of to lure them there. And enable Centerpoint Station to take out a bunch of them. It has been left non-functioning since Anakin enabled it back in the Corellian trilogy books, when he was still pretty young. So they want Anakin to go back and see if he can get it working again. Also the Vong have decided to work with the Hutts. Because we all know that the Hutts are always bad news.

But now we go see Luke, who doesn't actually appear much in this book. He is on Yavin with some of the Jedi including Jaina, Anakin and Jacen. Mara is off-world, and finally healthy after her mysterious illness. Luke goes and finds Anakin and Jacen are fighting and Jaina is trying to keep them from hitting each other. Of course they are fighting about the fact that Anakin had been asked to go help with Centerpoint Station. Anakin wants to help, Jacen thinks it is wrong for him to enable such a weapon. Then they argue about what constitutes defense. I guess it's kind of an interesting debate, but at the same time, because this becomes all Jacen talks about, it does get rather annoying. It's almost as though there is no such thing as just defending yourself. Because Anakin agrees he does not want to attack, he just wants Corellia and the rest of the New Republic to be able to defend itself. Luke agrees that it shouldn't be fired, but he does think that if it can be used to help defend Corellia and save lives, then it should be done. So, argument settled, but Jacen says he wants to go with Anakin, which is fine by him.

And now we go back to Leia on Hapes. She needs to get the help of their fleet to join in the war. So, she does what she does best and gives a speech that includes this line:

 "It was thought then that the New Republic and the Consortium might enter into an alliance through matrimony-though destiny had other unions in store for the would-be partners in that marriage."

This gets a laugh from her audience. At least she can joke about it now. After her speech Leia has a conversation with Ta'a Chume. Remember her? It's Isolder's mom, and she is not the nicest person ever. Leia comments about how a lot of the formalities she is witnessing on Hapes remind her of Alderaan, and she thinks of how her life could've been different. Ta'a Chume replies:

"Ah, but it could easily have been yours, my dear. It was you who chose Han Solo over my son."

 Leia looked at Chume'da Isolder, who stood tall, impeccably dressed, and incurably handsome at the head of the reception line. Yes, she told herself, I chose a two-fisted rogue without a credit to his name over a scion of pirates with pockets deep enough to finance his own war. And thank the stars for that. Childhood memories were one thing, but examined in the light of middle age they surrendered some of their charm. Leia could no more imagine herself a proper princess than she could an actress or an entrepreneur. She glanced over at Teneniel Djo-hands folded in front of her and chin lifted in regal deportment - and shuddered at the thought of standing in Teneniel's thousand-credit slippers.

 And yet even while she was thinking it, apprehension nibbled at her contentment. With Han off on his own, distant in more ways than one, the future they forged had grown formless and clouded. She hated having to worry about him, but in fact, she missed him terribly, and the trappings of royalty, the glance down a path not taken, left her feeling cold and alienated.

The only good thing about all of this is that Leia doesn't seem to be giving any second thoughts about not choosing to marry Isolder. She still seems to think she made a good choice. It's just really sad to see her thinking about how she doesn't know what her future with Han will be, and she misses him but right now he just isn't the man she loves, really. And even worse that this is all happening in the middle of such a crisis.

Well, one of the ambassador's, a man named Thane, insults Leia and Isolder challenges him to a duel, because that's just how things seem to work on Hapes. If it's not one thing poor Leia has to be dealing with, it's another. Again she doesn't sleep when waiting in anticipation of this duel to take place. Before the duel, Leia has yet another conversation with Ta'a Chume:

"I've seen the best bested, Ta'a Chume."

 The former queen mother studied her. "I have to wonder to whom you're referring. Your father, perhaps, bested by your brother; or my son, bested by the smuggler you helped make a hero."

 Leia refused to take the bait. "Isolder shouldn't have allowed himself to be provoked."

 "But, my dear, what other course of action was open to him after Thane insulted you?"

 "He could have allowed me to respond."

 Creases formed at the corners of Ta'a Chume's eyes. "My dear Leia, here on Hapes noblewomen are expected to comport themselves as something other than warriors. It has been thus since the founding days of the Consortium. Blame the Lorell Raiders for placing us on pedestals."

 "I'm not a Hapan noble, Ta'a Chume. And I've been called far worse than a liar."

 "I'm sure you have."

 Leia bristled, then regained her composure. "I'm more concerned about unity among the Consortium worlds than I am about defending my honor."

 Ta'a Chume forced a world-weary sigh. "There can be no unity without honor, Leia. And speaking of honor and dishonor, I've been meaning to inquire about your charming rogue of a husband. Why isn't he here with you?"

 Leia held Ta'a Chume's piercing gaze. "Han is contributing in his own way to the war effort."

 "What a curious answer." Ta'a Chume lowered her voice in feigned intimacy. "I trust there are no troubles at home."

 "There are troubles everywhere. That's why I'm here."

 "Indeed." Ta'a Chume fell silent for a moment, then said,

 "Since your arrival on Hapes I've been meaning to tell you how wrong I was about you."

 Leia waited.

 "Unlike the Dathomiri witch's daughter"-she glanced in the direction of Tenel Ka-"you chose against becoming a Jedi."

 Leia had to remind herself that she was talking with a woman who had not only ordered the murders of her elder son and Isolder's first love, but whose own mother had despised the Jedi almost as passionately as Palpatine had. Isolder's grandmother had wanted to see the Jedi extinguished, if only to prevent the resurrection of what she had deemed an oligarchy ruled by sorcerers and readers of auras.

 "Tenel Ka chose wisely," Leia said at last, "as did your son. Teneniel Djo is perfect for Isolder."

 Ta'a Chume shook her head. "No, my dear. Their marriage is beset by difficulties. There is talk of Teneniel Djo's returning to Dathomir."

 "I'm sorry. I didn't realize-"

 "You would have been perfect for my son. He undertakes this duel as much to demonstrate to me that a man is capable of taking initiative, as to demonstrate to you his continuing affection. That's why, regardless of the outcome of today's contest, you can rely on having my full support in the matter of the Consortium allying itself with the New Republic against the Yuuzhan Vong." Leia was still recovering from the unexpectedness of the disclosure when Isolder, Teneniel Djo, and Astarta strode into view.

Oh, great. So first this lady likes to pry about Leia's marriage, and then she tells her that apparently Isolder still wants her. It's been 18 years, and apparently that isn't over yet. Great. The only good news here is that Leia doesn't get sucked into telling her any more than she has to, and she certainly doesn't seem excited about the idea that Isolder is still interested. Anyway, they duel, Leia luckily does NOT suddenly decide that Isolder dueling for her honor is, like, hot, and Thane must agree to help the New Republic. The only good news about this passage is that at no point does Leia think about how amazingly handsome Isolder is, or that she totally wants him. So, in that regard at least, we are one step ahead of COPL. But then poor Leia is still stuck on Hapes for at least a few more days, and she spends most of the time just kind of hiding out and avoiding Isolder.

She had yet to spend any private time with the prince, and if she had her way, she wouldn't. From the start she had feared that Isolder had misconstrued the nature of her mission to Hapes, and Ta'a Chume's telling her that she would have been an ideal wife for him had only made things more awkward and complicated. The fate of the galaxy no longer turned on courtly intrigues, and Leia wanted no part of the Hapans' enslavement to them. Marooned in the past, in a swirl of distant memories, she longed more than anything to hear from Han. She knew that Jaina was with Rogue Squadron, and that Anakin and Jacen were bound for the Corellian system - if they weren't there already-but she had no idea where Han was.

 Countless times each day, he would come swaggering into her thoughts, quick to bring disarray. Although it wasn't the Han of the past several months she saw, but the scoundrel she had gradually fallen in love with. The Han who had thrown her a wink on being decorated for his unexpected actions during the Battle of Yavin; the Han who had acknowledged her first confession of love with a reply that managed to be both heartfelt and smug; the Han she had rendered speechless with the disclosure that Luke was her brother.

 Despite the damage to his roguish reputation a demonstration of real concern might inflict, there was no excusing his continued silence, and Leia was as angry at him as she was worried.

You just can't feel anything but bad for Leia here. She should be happy to be thinking about her husband, but because he is being such a jerk, it just messes with her head. Her anger definitely seems incredibly justified at this point. Frankly I'm almost surprised she even spoke to him last time he called. It's really pretty unfair what he is doing to her here. I guess the only thing I like in this little passage is that it says that she "gradually" fell in love with him, because that does seem accurate. But the rest just makes me sad.

So now they take the official vote on whether or not the Hapan fleet will join the battle, and as expected, they agree. Afterward, Isolder approaches Leia and this line made me laugh a little:

Turning, Leia saw a beaming Isolder marching toward her, throwing his richly embroidered cloak over one shoulder. For a moment she feared that he was actually going to scoop her up and twirl her around, but he came to a halt just out of arm's reach.

I like that because Leia "feared" he would scoop her up and twirl her. Not like in COPL, where she would've been wishing he'd do that, but she was basically thinking, "Ew, please don't." And luckily, he didn't. He acts all excited that they won the vote, and Leia has a vision that something terrible is going to happen to their fleet. It is so clear that she actually requests that they withdraw their support, or have a new vote and vote against it. But the decision is made and Isolder assures her that whatever happens, they will not hold the New Republic accountable. Without any other option, Leia agrees and Isolder offers his arm and Leia takes it as they walk off. Apparently Threepio doesn't like it.

"I believe your droid is agitated," Isolder said quietly. 

Leia laughed. "I'm sure he is. Threepio was very much Han's supporter when you were crazy enough to consider me fit to be a queen mother."

I still find it strange that somehow Threepio was ever on Han's side about anything. But anyway, Leia then agrees to accompany Isolder on his personal ship. Of course this made me think that at some point there would be some sort of misunderstanding from Han about why she was with him. Although honestly, at this point I'm not even sure I'd blame Leia for going with a man who is actually paying her some attention. Did I just say that? Of course I didn't mean that, but come on, Han, you're driving us all crazy!

Meanwhile, Jacen and Anakin have made it to Corellia. They also bring back Ebrihim, who was their tutor last time they were on Corellia. Bringing back lots of things from the Corellian trilogy. There is still discussion about what they will do with Centerpoint. It's possible to just set it up as an interdictor to keep the Vong ships from going anywhere, and of course Anakin would prefer that to arming it to fire. An unexpected guest arrives, Han's cousin Thrackan Sal-Solo, who Anakin notes suddenly looks even more like his father now that his father has a beard. Thrackan has been in jail basically since they last saw each other and is now out and of course wants to be a hero again. The kids aren't stupid though, and Jacen for one doesn't forget that he tortured their father.

Leia arrives back on Coruscant with Isolder, and thinks to herself how she STILL hasn't heard from Han. She also finds out that Jacen and Anakin are on Corellia potentially activating Centerpoint. So she reaches out for her family:

Leia managed not to wince. She knew, though, that she could take no more of Brand's briefing. His every gesture and assumption filled her with dread, no less so than Isolder's brash eagerness and posturing self-assurance. Retreating from the surrounding din, she reached out with the Force for Anakin and Jacen, then for Jaina, Luke, Mara, and some of the other Jedi. Each returned a subtle resonance, which, if nothing else, allayed her concerns temporarily. But when Leia tried to reach out for Han-whom she could sometimes feel, even through his denial of the Force, all she got back were images of a raging torrent and a plunge into measureless blackness. 

Are we feeling enough for Leia at this point? So now not only has she not heard from Han, but she has to worry about him even more. Han is with Droma, has died his hair and beard black which makes me think about Harrison Ford in The Fugitive. And they're in trouble and basically being swept down a river with raging rapids. Basically, Han is drowning on Fondor. Spoiler alert: of course he doesn't, though. But there is a new problem, as Leia, who is still with Isolder, learns that apparently the Vong fooled them all into thinking they'd attack Corellia, but instead they attack.... where else? Fondor! The Hapan fleet gets sent in, and Leia is still feeling as though something terrible will happen.

Word of the attack gets to Corellia where the Solo boys are, and Thrackan seems to think that it would be a good idea to fire Centerpoint at Fondor to take out a bunch of Vong. Of course there is some debate, and they don't really have the authority to make that decision anyway. But, before any of them can even make any sort of decision, Thrackan steps in and fires it himself. Just as Leia's vision predicted, this action kills off much of the Hapan fleet. It does take some of the Vong with them as well, but it comes at quite a price. Even worse, Thrackan is being called a hero for doing what he's done. Jacen tells Anakin he is proud of him for not firing it, but Anakin says that if he had done it he would've been able to direct the beam to only take out the enemy and spare the Hapan fleet.

Now we come to one of my least favorite exchanges in the EU:

Throwing her hands up in a gesture of surrender, she accepted the call. Han's was the last face she expected to see appear on the display screen.

 "It's just me," he said, smiling lopsidedly while she gaped at his image, feeling as if months had passed since they had spoken. The display showed that he was calling from an Abregado-rae space terminal.

 "I see you shaved off your beard," she said finally. He rubbed his chin. "Yeah, too itchy."

  "Well, at least you look like your old self again." He scowled, started to say something, then began again.

 "Grim business about what happened to the Hapans at Fondor. How's Isolder doing?"

 "I figured you'd hear the news sooner or later-even in a playground like Abregado-rae."

 "Hear about it?" Han said. "I saw it!"

 "You what?"

 "I was there-at Fondor."

 "You were at Fondor," she echoed in disbelief.

 "Droma and I were chasing after his clanmates. Some of them had managed to get themselves marooned in a deserted shipyard facility, and the rest were prisoners aboard a yammosk ship. Anyway, it's a long, boring story. The point is, I saw the Hapan fleet get wiped out. But I thought Fondor's primary went nova. I didn't know it was Centerpoint."

 Leia pushed her hair back from her forehead. "You realize that Anakin and Jacen were there."

 Han took his lower lip between his teeth. "Did they fire it?"

 Leia's nostrils flared. "Do you think they'd do something like that?"

 Han's brow furrowed. "Take it easy. You know I don't listen to the news."

 Leia thought about telling him about Thrackan Sal-Solo's sudden rise to fame, but decided against it, knowing that Han would find out soon enough.

 "Where did you bring the refugees you rescued?"

 "Here. But they can't stay for long. Abregado-rae is pulling in the welcome mat."

 Leia sighed. "SELCORE is searching for a world suitable for relocating everyone. We thought we were going to be able to count on Ruan, but Salliche Ag is suddenly refusing to accept any refugees."

 Han averted his eyes momentarily. "About Ruan," he started to say.

 "SELCORE is getting some unexpected help from Senator Shesh," Leia went on. "I'll let you know as soon as I hear anything."

 Han nodded. "Long as it's somewhere the Ryn won't be treated like riffraff."

 "You have my word on it." Leia paused, then added, "Will Droma be remaining with his clanmates?"

 "Yeah. The way I figure it, he and I are about even."

 "So where does that leave you, Han?"

 "I'm not sure. What about you-are you finally home for good?"

 "I'm leaving this afternoon for Duro."

 "Same old Princess Leia," he said with a sneer. "Then I guess it doesn't matter where I end up."

 She narrowed her eyes for the cam. "Same old Han Solo."

 He tried to lighten the moment with a laugh. "We are a pair, aren't we?"

 "I don't know, Han. You tell me."

 His eyes flashed. "Well, look, be sure to let me know what planet SELCORE decides on."

 "Anything to help the refugees," Leia said with counterfeit good humor.

 "That's what I've been saying all along."

 Leia folded her arms. "In that case, our paths are bound to cross one of these days."

 "I don't know, sweetheart, it's a big galaxy."

 "Only as big as you make it," she said, deactivating the comm.

And that is the last we hear from Han and Leia in this book. It was at this point when I first read it that I was pretty convinced that they were never going to be together ever again. Han is giving her absolutely no sign that he particularly cares at all, and Leia is (rightfully) so mad at him at this point she is beyond the point of trying to bother to get him to realize what he's been doing. It's like they don't even know each other anymore, and it's awful. The only good thing in this entire passage is the news that Han shaved his beard and looks like his old self again. Seriously, Han barely even deserves to be forgiven here. For as mad as I was at Leia in COPL, I'm just as mad at Han during this whole mess here.

So that is the end of this one. I think the Han and Leia factor here is pretty easy: 1. It barely deserves a 1, but I'll give it at least that. Han is I guess a little less deliberately heartless in this book compared to the last one, but it has almost become worse because it's like he's totally indifferent at this point. And poor Leia is stuck trying to deal with all this insanity while her children are off risking their lives and her husband almost doesn't even want anything to do with her anymore.

Ugh, this sucks, doesn't it? The good news is, the NEXT book they reconcile. I know, based on where we're leaving off here, it doesn't seem possible, does it? But trust me, I read it already, it's true.


  1. Great review! Nice to see it! Nice to get back to some other stories, too.

    I remember feeling truly heartbroken with H/L's relationship when first reading this and the related books. This is when I began to distance myself emotionally from non-movie content, and began to view a lot of these books as officially sanctioned fan fiction, not officially sanctioned character/story developments. (So when TFA put their relationship in a similar place, my reactions were tempered by a sense that the lazy filmmakers simply borrowed from the books: been there, done that, nothing to see here, move along.)

    So these later-years stories just strike me as Interesting Explorations of Big Life Themes And Stuff Using Beloved Characters--not *Star Wars.* In that way, I appreciate them.

    Han's line "a man's good for only one promise at a time" is really fascinating. Han has gotten older. He's an empty nester. He's at the perfect place to begin some serious reflecting on life, and growing older--and that's before Chewie or the Yuuzhan Vong. So who is he now? He's been a husband, he's raised his children, he's had his career, he's losing friends; now what? What will the rest of his life hold in store? Who is he, and who is he as a man? What does it mean to him to be a man now? What does living his life with integrity mean?

    Similarly, as annoying as it is that Isolder still wuuuvs Leia, it provides an interesting opportunity to glimpse into Leia's reflections on life and growing older. What must it be like for someone to realize just how different their life turned out due to various events from the way it was starting to go earlier on? To see where your life might have gone is strange; to see that alternative when you're experiencing tumult in your current life is especially strange.

    1. It WAS a heartbreaking time to be a Han and Leia fan, wasn't it? I seriously thought that was going to be the end. I think I was too young at the time to be able to really separate this as just "sanctioned fanfic" so I didn't have that sort of help. It went on for so long, too!

      At least when Leia thought about the potentially different turn her life could've taken, she was NOT interested in that alternate path.

    2. Sure was! (If it helps, "sanctioned fanfic" is from the benefit of hindsight. At the time, it was more like fingers in the ears, "not listening!, no, no, no, no, no... nope!!!") And yeah, it just kept going...

      Alternate path: no kidding! That was a huge relief. (And a nice "fix" to CoPL!)

  2. Thank you for these reviews Zyra! I really appreciate learning more about the EU.

  3. Wow...this is great. Thank you so much for taking the time to read, review and publish this (and the others you've done).

    I am always going to be interested in the EU and will eventually make my way back through all the books I read long ago, and all the ones I never bothered reading (this is one of them).

  4. I'm just gonna sit here in my patient pants while I wait for your BP review!

    Now, if I'm going to look on the "bright"- or less dark-haired side of this story, I "enjoyed" Leia's parts in that she hasn't given up on Han though things between them look doubtful. She still worries about him and she can't stop thinking about him and how he is. I think it's interesting that the writer(s) chose to have Leia meet with Isolder during her and Han'sLuke estrangement because it shows her dedication and loyalty to Han. Not that I think that would be an issue for her but- well, we all remember the first seven or so books of this series and what the authors did to Han and Leia.

    1. You're right, and that is why this book gets a 1 and not a zero. Leia is very "Leia" in this. And of course I love that in spite of the troubles she is having, she has no regrets about the life she chose, and it not at all attracted to or tempted by Isolder. And also on the bright side, in spite of the fact that he is open about still having feelings for her, once Leia tells him that is not why she is there, he doesn't pursue it at all. You're right, this very much shows her loyalty still lies with Han. Even though right now he doesn't really deserve it!

  5. Thank you for the review! I hadn't followed any of the novels when they came out. (With one exception: Splinter of the Mind's Eye. Yup.) I read COPL many, many years after it came out, and was so annoyed I didn't bother with much else after that. With all the good things said about Thrawn I'll have to read those someday. -- MrsScruffyNerfherder

  6. Ugh. I stopped reading the EU before all this, and when TFA came out, I bought the whole NJO series from a reseller on Amazon, because I thought making sure I had a collection of all the EU books featuring Han and Leia would be a good idea (I'd been a random EU reader, not a committed one). These NJO books are still in a storage shed, haven't gotten to them, and I'm thinking that maybe most of them will stay there!

    1. Well, fortunately in the NEXT book they are back together. And for the entire rest of the EU as we knew it, Han and Leia are written as I'd always envisioned them. Of course lots of bad stuff happens to them, but at least they stick it out together. I'll be interested as I go along to see if my opinion changes there. I doubt it will though, it doesn't tend to.

    2. Yeah. And if memory serves, their reconciliation is a satisfying read... looking forward to reviews to come! :)

    3. Satisfying read? It's not, actually. Well, in the ebook, Recovery, it is. But the initial reconciliation in Balance Point? Nope. It is incredibly short, and written entirely from Leia's point of view. So while you get that she is so relieved that he seems to be letting her back in, we get no real indication from Han about what changed there. I've been on a reading spree and I already read it, only 75 pages to go in Balance Point and then I'll have another review up!

    4. Riiiiight. It's been too long, they're all jumbled. But now that you mention the title, that rings the right bell. Great spree to be on, ;)

  7. I've been so enjoying the reviews as I sort of sideways try out the EU again.

    Like Kels, I stopped with the EU a long time ago (I barely made it through the Zahn books, I think I read the Courtship...but I read the Brian Daley Han books and Splinter of the Mind's Eye and the novelizations so....).

    The book above sort of crystallizes why I stopped. This phrase: "the Han who had acknowledged her first confession of love with a reply that managed to be both heartfelt and smug"

    What the hell is smug about "I know" in that scene? On paper, yes, but as it's delivered???

    Anyway, I pretty much gave up on the EU because of the way Luke, Han and Leia are pulled in different directions and for the fact that a lot of the time, I'm puzzled as to who these people are. For example, Luke is being exiled in one of the books and Leia and Han are so chill about it. Or Jedi are being carbon frozen and I still haven't seen a reaction from Han - then again, I think that's my main problem. I get very little emotion from the books. That's why I stopped.

    Even Crucible, which should reaffirm their commitment to each other, the three of them - has one good moment with Han thinking about that and then it's right back to him worried about Leia exclusively (and not really that much!), and not even mentioning Luke. Did I miss in one of these books where they got estranged for some reason or is Han expressing any emotion about Luke not allowed because we're all straight here, nothing to see here, Maker forbid that Luke and Han, who've been friends and related by marriage for 45 years, have any emotion for each other. These two who are tactile as hell with each other, who are worried about each other in the movies? I know they're not interpreting them the way I do, but a few moments of emotion beyond "hey, nice to see you lived" would be appreciated - because it's on screen!

    1. It's been too long since I've read the EU books, so I hesitate to say this with too much conviction... but my sense was always that yes, the EU was fairly "we're all straight here," and that overall, the emotional stuff between characters was way too underdeveloped. Military and political strategy and intrigue and flight patterns and explosions and fighting: check. Willingness to delve into emotional truths: nope. (And since that's a lot of repressed emotion that needed an outlet, they channeled it all into Luke and Mara: eye roll.)

    2. I read the novels in front of a book store shelf, thumbing through, looking for the emotional stuff and leaving after "reading" 20 minutes. Always found them very unsatisfactory, and therefore never thought much about them. They just weren't convincing to me. I thought they skipped a lot of life too. In just a few years of publication, the OT had aged thirty years. I would have liked to see more of the characters I knew, not these unhappy strangers.

    3. Star Wars books in general seem to be wooden compared to the subtle and deft way that fanfic writers manage to portray the OT3. And I agree, though I'm not a OT3-some shipper, I really hate it when the OT3 aren't given adequate acknowledgment of how close and intertwined their lives are. So, the EU habit of separating Han, Leia, and Luke is annoying at best. I think it's a lack of imagination to pull them into different directions. Maybe at some points (especially Luke, to go off on his own on Jedi business) but it's unfathomable that they wouldn't be pulled back to each other.

  8. I think at least the old EU made me think in Han having depression (I'm mentally ill and I believe Han had a mental breakdown).

    Now in Disney canon I noticed that they is changing some things, JJ Abrams made us think HanLeia breaked up a long time ago but now:

    *Bloodline said they're still together 5 years before TFA (Pablo Hidalgo even said Bloodline can be 4 years before the movie)

    *Poe Comics (that is shortly before TFA) shows Leia still talks with Han

    Also Rian Johnson (director of The Last Jedi) said JJ Abrams made the script just thinking in TFA, so Lucasfilm group will finish the story with Rian and after with Colin. So even if JJ made Han/Leia split up, the group can make it less terrible

    1. They totally seemed to be retconning the relationship. That doesn't make it much better though. It still sucks. It just sucks slightly less, but not less sucky enough.

    2. For the record, I didn't get round to reading the NJO until the series was complete, and I couldn't bring myself to read the books where they were separated, and I still haven't read them. But compared to what we got in TFA, this seems a walk in the park, but was traumatising at the time.

  9. Thanks for this review, Zyra. Made me glad I never read this book. ;) As others have mentioned, I found the lack of emotion in the EU novels to be a huge turn-off. Anyway, I like reading your reviews, and am now off to read some emotionally satisfying fanfic. ;)

  10. To those of you complaining about lack of emotion in the EU, I definitely can't disagree with you there. Especially after I just read Balance Point, and in spite of the reconciliation, there is, well, not much emotion there.

    Which, of course, is why we all love fanfic so much. It's where we get the emotion we're looking for!